Planning your long and medium-term key opinion leader (KOL) management activities is a must if you want your KOL activities to be coherent and effective. Planning your KOL activities has the following profound benefits:
1. Sense of purpose for each activity; you know exactly what you want out of each activity and why.
2. Helps communication between different teams and prevents one team, for example, over-working one particular KOL so that they are not available for a crucial activity by another team.
3. Allows you to develop KOLs for activities later in the lifecycle, e.g. be aware when choosing clinical trialists that it would be useful if some of them are expert and authoritative speakers for when someone needs to present the clinical trial data.
4. Builds trust with KOLs if you can share with them in advance, these are the activities that we would like to work with you on over the next few years.
5. With a thorough knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the KOLs you are working with, planning helps you to select the most appropriate KOLs based on their strengths.
6. Planning also allows you to choose the right KOL for the right moment in a product lifecycle, for example, you will want to work with those with characteristics of innovators earlier in the product lifecycle, and early adopters later in the product lifecycle.
7. And maybe most importantly, by creating a plan at the beginning of the engagement process, you can measure if you have achieved what you set out to achieve.
So how do you go about creating that plan? Make a list of what you need from KOLs over the next 3 years or so, and a more detailed list of what you will need from KOLs over the next year. Be precise; if you are meeting a KOL one-on-one, be clear about what feedback or advice you may want from them, or any other goal for the meeting. It will also help at this stage to think about what is in it for the KOL (see Tip 2: Think about the KOL’s point of view). It is important that you also communicate with colleagues who interact with KOLs; what activities are they planning over the next few years, what advice may they need from KOLs, how is the influence of a KOL important for them?
Once you have this list of activities, you can begin to think about which KOLs you will use for each activity. Firstly, which KOL is most suited for which activity? Obviously the more you know about each KOL here, the more effectively you will be able to plan your activities. Remember here that it is not just a question of what you want from each KOL, there is also the question of what they are looking for from their relationship with you. If you don’t know, ask them. Secondly, are you working with a particular KOL too much, or not enough?
Now you have completed a first draft of this plan, you may want to analyse it with a thought to the diversity of the views you will receive, and the diversity of the experts you want to influence the field. For example, some therapy areas have definite splits between scientific views, are you sure that the people you are engaging with provide a balanced idea of the views of the scientific community? Is there a good representation of gender, age and nationality (if relevant) of the KOLs you plan to work with.
It is time to put the plan into action. Bear in mind that this is a working document, and will almost certainly be adapted as you progress, but you can be confident that you are travelling in the correct direction for effective KOL engagement.